Hawaiian Music Collection - Mendelssohn, Felix: Conductor Biography

Felix Mendelssohn was a huge pioneer in helping make Hawaiian music popular in Europe throughout the 1930's and 40's. Born in London in 1911, he originally wanted to become a stockbroker but fate took him on a different journey as his love for Hawaiian music grew. Felix started out as a manager for various clubs and soon became the promotional manager for several band leaders. Felix formed his own dance orchestra that played on Radio Luxembourg and BBC as well as recorded for DECCA. It was in these performances that he would occasionally play a Hawaiian song. In 1938 Felix took over a band led by Canadian steel guitarist, Roland Peachy and renamed it "Felix Mendelssohn's Hawaiian Serenaders". The band was successful in several recordings, but in 1940, Peachy left the band. Felix arranged for a stage tour and a two year contract with Columbia records in 1941. In 1942 the Serenaders made their first appearance in a variety show called the Yankee Clipper and at this time the Serenaders were becoming increasingly popular. The band made 50 short films and their music was reissued and famous all over the world. Felix built up an entire troupe of Hula Dancers from around the world in which he called his "South Sea Lovelies" in which Felix would make up a story about each dancer and would involve audience members in the show as well. In 1946 financial problems overcame the band which continued until 1950 when Felix appeared in bankruptcy court. After promising to repay his debts, he arranged another tour but it was a financial disaster and he had to arrange a free show for the Army so he could get back home. In the fall of 1950, Felix became ill with a stomach ailment and although he continued to work, his health became worse and on February 4, 1952 after entering the hospital, he died of Hodgkins' Disease at the age of 40.

Kanahele, George. Hawaiian Music and Musicians. Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii, 1979. (Page 241-248).